Editor's note: The video of this story has been updated to remove the image of a patient in compliance with HIPAA regulations.
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Before the season’s peak, hospitals around Kentucky are reporting twice the number of Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) patients than last year. Doctors say this is a growing problem that’s cause for some concern.
What You Need To Know
- Kentucky is seeing more RSV patients than in previous years
- The Kentucky Children’s Hospital is among the facilities working to lower the high numbers
- RSV mimics a mild-like common cold, but infants, young kids and older adults can have serious complications
- Doctors warn parents to help prevent and know when to respond to infections
RSV mimics a mild-like common cold. The virus can potentially affect people of all ages, but doctors say that infants, young children, and older adults are more likely to have serious complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus normally spikes from December to mid-February.
According to the CDC, RSV hospitalizes over 50,000 children younger than 5 each year, and doctors in Lexington say numbers have been spiking as early as late spring.
“We started seeing it made this year, and the past month, I think we broke all the records that we know of how many positive tests of RSV we’ve seen here,” said Dr. Lindsay Ragsdale with UK’s Kentucky Children’s Hospital. “Really, this is the national trend that we’re seeing in children’s hospitals. I think it’s just because kids’ immune systems have never really seen RSV if you’re less than two.”
The infection is contagious and often spreads in schools, daycares and other public spaces with constant interactions. Babies and people with compromised immune systems can even continue spreading the virus for 4 weeks.
Dr. Ragsdale said parents should watch for any decline in their child’s daily health, especially when it comes to breathing.
“[If] you can see them using their chest wall muscles and they’re breathing hard. If their nostrils are flaring every time that they need to breathe, they’re breathing really fast, kind of panting… Those are the things that we really probably need more rapid assessment,” she said.
Health officials say unnoticed or untreated symptoms can lead to serious health problems like bronchiolitis and or pneumonia. RSV also poses a triple risk-factor with Covid and the Flu as potential threats.
In September, Norton’s Children’s Hospital in Louisville reported having admitted 66 RSV patients in one week compared to 32 at this time last year.